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Alcoholics Anonymous fails to win .org site

Owners of the site fend off a bid by the national organization to snatch AlcoholicsAnonymous.org, saved in part by a wide-ranging disclaimer on the front page.

Owners of the AlcoholicsAnonymous.org Web site have fended off a bid by the national organization to snatch the domain name, saved in part by a wide-ranging disclaimer on the front page.

Saying the site displayed an adequate warning "which goes much further than an ordinary disclaimer," the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center said in a recently released decision that it is allowing the owners of AlcoholicsAnonymous.org to keep the name.

The site, which says it once hosted porn, now bills itself as an unofficial AA forum where people can, among other things, sign up for alcoholism-related lists or an AlcoholicsAnonymous.org e-mail account.

Alcoholics Anonymous had filed a claim with the WIPO board, which has the right to transfer domain names from one party to another, alleging the site's owners were violating the organization's trademark and using the site in bad faith. AA also accused the site's owners, who used a fictitious name, of providing false information when registering the site.

The board, however, sided with the current owners Dec. 28, saying they posted adequate notification that the site was not affiliated with AA. Furthermore, the board noted, AA encourages anonymity and a decentralized structure.

Domain name dispute resolution boards side with trademark holders in a majority of cases, making this decision somewhat unusual.

The panel did find the site's owners acted in bad faith by trying to sell the domain name, but the action was not enough to warrant a transfer.

However, the board warned against extrapolating this decision to other cases.

"It has not been easy for this panel to reach a decision and so this panel would be reluctant to have this decision stand as precedent for others unless the unique circumstances were almost precisely duplicated," the WIPO board wrote in its decision.